As creatives we often find ourselves reaching out in hopes of finding this wonderful word. Personally I love surrounding myself with as much inspiration as possible for every aspect of life. Above my desk I have a bulletin board and a white board filled with all sorts of inspiring pictures, quotes, articles and other randomness to remind myself to keep moving forward.
Just this week one of my absolute best friends, an EXTRAORDINARY photographer/artist/creative, and I shared our inspiration folders with each other. As she pointed out, it was like getting to look into each others minds and see the bits that make our creative section tic. I realized what we are inspired by says a lot about our direction in which we are heading both creatively and in general with the other inspirations we acquire. However, at the same time we often miss the many treasures that are within these powerful inspirations.
If your anything like I have been in the past, and have acquired a folder full of inspiring pictures (over 6,000 in my inspiration folders right now), it either just sits there collecting virtual dust or you look through it from time to time and get a stagnate inspiration more often than not, where your inspired but have no clue where to start to put any of it into action. Often at most we get an idea of a subject to shoot or create, yet our folders hold so much more than just these simple ideas.
So the big question is what do we do with all this inspiration we collect?
How do we turn our folders and bulletin boards into a catapult that will launch us towards the next level of creative expression?
How do we transform our collection of ideas into a collection of useful tools?
I like to consider myself a student of life. I have an EXTREME (said in a wrestling announcers voice) hunger for learning, so its surprises me when I miss out on an obvious chance for learning and growth, which is what I’ve realized in the last few days of looking through mine and my friends inspiration folders. I realized we often look for inspiration in the wrong way, which is why we find ourselves staring into our folders with little outcome and results put towards our own work. We leave the folder with only the images in mind, which as creatives we obviously refuse to recreate what others have already done.
So instead we should study each image as if it were the day before finals and we needed at least a B to save our ass from failing the course.
Why does it inspire us?
What about it draws us in?
And the big one.. What can I learn from this photo?
As photographers (and creatives in general) one of the most powerful skills to be had, is developing the ability to look into an image and see further than the “first layer”. You can judge a book by its cover but you cant absorb what it has to offer without cracking it open. When we study our inspiration, we begin to learn what is truly hitting the note that is such music to our ears.
Is it the lighting? If so try to break the image down to the lighting pattern.. Was it specular or diffused light? Was it shot during the golden hour? Was it studio lighting? How many lights do you think were used?
Is it the gesture? Was it candid or posed? What makes that gesture stand out from the hundreds of others you’ve seen?
Is it the composition? Why was it composed this way? Would you compose it different?
Color, perspective, relationship, story, DOF, etc….
Its a series of questions like these that will lead to a true inspiration, that can be applied to each image you shoot from there on out. The beautiful thing is once your force yourself into the habit of questioning each image you cant help but to question each new shot you make, resulting in better pictures. Its an understanding of what a “Great Photo” means to YOU. So get on out there and study that which inspires you, and if you don’t have an treasure.. er I mean inspiration folder yet theres no better time to start collecting these new TOOLS, to take your creativity to the next level.
What are your thoughts on the subject? How do you approach your inspiration?